First Time Having a Daughter Stay with us

Lee has a serious case of hitch itch (the desire to move along which strikes some RVers who stay in the same place to long) but I am viewing the move with mixed feelings.  I’m comfortable here in Largo.  I know where the grocery store,  etc. is, plus I’ve finally learned the roads, but now we are going to move on.  Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely not the place we want to put down roots…it’s way too congested for us, but I am comfortable. It’s funny how quickly you can get into the habit of a place.  Plus Rainbow Village has really provided a great long-term visit experience. I’ve written more below, but I would absolutely recommend it if you’re looking to stay in the Clearwater area for more than a month. Lee washed the RV, truck, and car and accomplished numerous other outside chores.  As a side note, washing RV’s is not allowed in many campgrounds so you really need to take advantage of those that do allow it.  It looked very pretty when he was done although he was adamant about not washing any particular side in full sun (something about hurting the finish and decals) so the chore did stretch out throughout the day as the sun moved.

In one of the periods where we were waiting for the sun to re-position, we went to an Asian market.  I have numerous recipes that require pretty specific asian ingredients that you just can’t get at a regular store so I was excited when he stumbled across a full-sized Asian market.  What a terrific experience! I almost want to put the $106 we spent into the entertainment category. I had a blast and the store was very neat with extremely clean restrooms and people at every check out lane to assist.  What a refreshing change from most standard grocery stores.  They had live fish in tanks for sale (including eel), tons of ingredients you wouldn’t find anywhere else (complete pigs feet, dried squid,etc.) and lots of items imported from China, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, and Korea.  I was attracted to those labels that were almost solely in a foreign language for their authenticity and luckily the price label on the shelf always had an English translation.  I did have to google a couple of things though to make sure I was getting it right but it was tons of fun.  An entire aisle of noodles for example…how cool is that?

Best Asian Market I've ever been to

Best Asian market I’ve ever been to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday we took our time getting ready.  It was a short drive (less than 2 hours) to Apopka and we couldn’t check in until after 1pm.  Normally on a travel day we like to get up and out, but the short hop allowed us to take our time.  The driving went perfectly and when we arrived at Magnolia County Park it was absolutely beautiful.  There was a lake across the street, huge peacocks in the yard, and it was a very nice and clean facility.  So we had big smiles on our faces when we walked into the office…until the camp host said he didn’t think we would fit in Site 11.  I was confused by this as I specifically stated in my phone call we had a 4o foot fifth wheel and allowed the camp host to book our site.  The host didn’t understand what had happened but suggested we drive back in our car first to see what we thought.  We drove the route and although we did think we could squeeze into the slot, unfortunately we did not see how we could get out of the park as the last turn to get out was very tight between two low hanging trees.  We also couldn’t drive back the way we came because the right pulling out would have had us hitting the electrical pedestal.  So here we were in Apopka during spring break with Katy and Micah on their way to stay with us, and no site to be had.  To the credit of the park hosts they were very nice and they called several state parks for us to see if they had a spot.  There was one about three miles away which accommodates horse trailers but unfortunately they were not willing to guarantee anything beyond Thursday.  Since I wasn’t willing to wing it with the kids, I started to push Lee a bit to see if he could try to make the spot work and finally he held the truck keys out to me.  This was pretty effective as I realized I wasn’t willing to chance it so why should I expect him to do it?  At that point we started looking and found a park called Lost Lake that takes Passport America.  Lee called the number and we drove there, but the camp office was closed.  Luckily there was another couple waiting and the owners (taking their first day off in three months) sent over someone to help us and the other couple.  We got a huge pull through site with 50 amp and full hookups and although the weekly rate of $210 for this site had no Passport America discount we were happy to have it.  Under normal circumstances we would not stay here, but the kids will mostly be at the parks or Cape Canaveral so really we only need a place for them to sleep and me to work.  The wifi is really strong and although the park is pretty run down the people seem pretty nice and frankly I was glad we found a place at all at that point.   I will say it’s the second time we have tried to stay at a State or Local park where we were assigned a site that we simply could not get into.  Lesson Learned is to have more discussion with these type of campgrounds when making the reservations.

Because we got in on Sunday and the office was closed, the camp host told us to just come check in and pay tomorrow.  We were quoted $210 a week over the phone, and we knew the Passport America price we were given would not apply to the site we were in.  What we didn’t know until the next morning was that they were charging us $35 a night for 9 nights and then an extra $10 for each of the kids for each night, which was yet another $90.  By the time we found this out it was late into the first night and we were totally set up.  So we paid $370 for one week in a very mediocre park.  The kids offered to make up the difference, but we weren’t going to make them pay for our mistake so…Lesson Learned is when finding a second site don’t just take the first thing that comes along.  Take some time to research again even if that is inconvenient.  I did go back later and called the owner we had spoken to and she said she would refund the $90 but when we went to the office the person working there said she didn’t know how to do it. By the time we left at the end of the week, she had figured it out, so we did ultimately get the refund. However, we would absolutely NEVER stay here again.  See at the bottom of the page for my detailed campground review.

The kids came and so the week was really fun.  We looked at our budget in advance and talked about how to handle it.  We have $350 a month for entertainment and dining out, so obviously that wasn’t going to cut it.  We didn’t mind going over some but this could quickly turn into a $1,000 week so we talked through it first with each other and then the kids when they came.   The deal we struck was the kids paid for one of us to go to a park and we would drive them and pay for our own food.  Lee went to Universal Tuesday and Wednesday and I went to Epcot with the kids on Thursday. Because they didn’t have to pay for a hotel room or car rental it made the vacation far less expensive for them and because we went separately and tried to keep food costs down it made it affordable for us.  Plus the kids went with Lee to the store and we planned out some meals to make at the camper, and they chipped in for some of the groceries, and we bought some really nice steaks to make for dinner at the campground on Friday night.  Saturday we all went to the Kennedy Space Center together and everyone paid their own way  (which was more affordable because the ticket prices are so much lower their.)  Altogether we still blew the budget some, but it wasn’t a complete disaster which was good for everyone plus sets a good precedent for future kid visits.  When you have more than one and want to be fair, everything you do (in our case) needs to be multiplied by three so I feel pretty good about how the visit turned out financially .

Enough of that now onto the good stuff: here are pictures of the two days in Universal Studios which Lee, Katy, and Micah did.  Katy and Micah are huge Harry Potter fans and really the purpose of the whole trip was to see these two mini parks within the two Universal parks. Universal has put half in one park and half in the other, pretty much forcing you to by a two -day park hopper pass (they give you a third day free, but despite the costs the kids (and Lee) had a really good time and were gone from park open to closing time both nights.

Kat bought a wand at HArry Potter world in Universal which is interactive with displays in Diagon Alley

Kat bought a wand at Harry Potter world in Universal which is interactive with displays in Diagon Alley

Great shot of the dragon breathing a fire ball

Great shot of the dragon breathing a fire-ball

The Hogwarts train actually rides you from the newer section of the park to the old one

The Hogwarts train actually rides you from the newer section of the park to the old one

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, Kat, Micah, and I went to Epcot.  The first time I visited the mouse I was 5 years old (see picture below), and I love Epcot the most.  Micah has never been to any Disney park at all, and chose Epcot as his park to visit so I was thrilled to go.  We had a great time in all the countries eating a little snack in almost every one and the kids drank a little something in everyone as well.  We were there open to close and definitely got our money’s worth.

My dad and I in Disney the year it opened

My dad and I in Disney the year it opened

Katy had a nice chat with Alice

Katy had a nice chat with Alice

Hook was awesome

Hook was awesome

Katy and the Crocodile

Katy and the Crocodile

171

Kat and Micah at the Tequila bar …they had a jalapeno and cucumber margarita that they said was delicious

 

Micah, me, and Kat at this great Moroccan restaurant at Epcot

Micah, me, and Kat at this great Moroccan restaurant at Epcot

Micah with his huge man crush on Aladdin

Micah with his huge man crush on Aladdin

Tinker Bell was talking at me ...freaked me out a little

Tinker Bell was talking to me about pixie dust …freaked me out a little.  Kat loved it

Micah was nice enough to put on every weird hat I found for him

Micah was nice enough to put on every weird hat I found for him

So I thought this was a bear and put it on not knowing it was a beaver which as Micah says is funnier

So I thought this was a bear and put it on thinking I would freak Lee out …but it was a beaver which totally cracked Micah up

These made me laugh

These made me laugh

Nice to see Katy can still be silly

Nice to see Katy can still be silly

Hydroponic Garden in Epcot

Hydroponic Garden in Epcot

Loved the Topiaries

Loved the Topiaries

The frozen topiary was really pretty

The Frozen topiary was really pretty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday we all took the day off and chilled.  Everyone was pretty pooped from all the walking, even the kids.   We went around Apopka a bit….which I truly am not that found of…and looked for some Roadside Attractions.  The only neat thing I found was a beautiful Buddhist Sanctuary I stumbled across (only 3 miles from the campground).

Buddhist Sanctuary

Buddhist Sanctuary

Buddhist Sanctuary

Buddhist Sanctuary

Loved the Buddha

Loved the Buddha

The dragon was very cool

The dragon was very cool

 

So I was a bit bummed, but on the way back to our site we saw the coolest bus in our campground.  It’s owned by a couple that train entertainment cats and it was AWESOME.  I would have loved to have met them but didn’t see them around, but the bus speaks for itself.  Interested in the story…check out CircusCats.com 

The front of their bus was awesome

The front of their bus was awesome

Circus Cats .com

Circus Cats .com

Seriously you can't make this stuff up

Seriously you can’t make this stuff up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday we went to the Kennedy Space Center and I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting it was.  First of all they have RV parking close to the entrance for only $15 (so you can pop out and make your own lunch) and they also offer free dog kenneling.  The complex has its own bus tour which includes several buildings and we got to go very close to the launchpads.  It was a terrific combination of adult experience with enough interactivity for kids and adults alike and well worth the $50 admission price.   As a bonus, the space complex is completely surrounded by protected wetlands so there are opportunities to see wildlife.  We saw our first wild gator, an eagle, turtles, and numerous other birds.  A retired engineer was in one of the buildings and he explained to me how the lunar module reconnected with the command ship after landing on the moon.  Really interesting conversation and the engineer said, “I understand why people think we faked it.  I worked on the projects for 42 years and I am still amazed at what we managed to accomplish with 1960’s technology.”  Really enjoyed my conversation with him.   My only disappointment was how small and isolated the astronaut memorial site was.  I vividly remember the Challenger explosion that killed the first civilian teacher that went into space and unfortunately the Saturn rocket building really downplayed the two explosions that killed entire crews and significantly set back our space program.  But other than that I was incredibly impressed by the entire experience and Highly recommend it if you are in the Titusville area.

042

Kat and Micah at Kennedy Space Center

Kat and Micah at Kennedy Space Center

Assembly plant is the largest single story building in the world

Assembly plant is the largest single story building in the world

This huge transporter moves the rockets from the assembly building to the launch pads

This huge transporter moves the rockets from the assembly building to the launch pads

The launch pad and water tower being worked on by Space - X

The launch pad and water tower being worked on by Space – X

\

These fences curve inward because apparently alligators can climb a 6 foot fence...yikes!!

These fences curve inward because apparently alligators can climb a 6 foot fence…yikes!!

Interactive movies were great

Interactive movies were great

156

This eagles nest has existed since before the Kennedy Space Center was built

This eagles nest has existed since before the Kennedy Space Center was built

Our first alligator in the wild

Our first alligator in the wild

Full size Saturn Rocket

Full size Saturn Rocket

Dave worked for NASA as an engineer for 42 years and he answered some questions I had

Dave worked for NASA as an engineer for 42 years and he answered some questions I had

The beds were weird you have to zip yourself into them so you don't float away

The beds were weird you have to zip yourself into them so you don’t float away

You think RV toilets are bad in space you have to watch your pee and poop on a monitor to make sure none floats away

You think RV toilets are bad? In space you have to watch your pee and poop on a monitor to make sure none floats away

Slides aren't just for kids !! It went fast

Slides aren’t just for kids !! It went fast

Read this is your a Colbert fan

Read this if you’re a Colbert fan

Memorial plaque for the astronauts who have dies

Memorial plaque for the astronauts who have died

Sunday was the kid’s last full day and they went to Magic Kingdom, but we went to visit our rally friends Mario and Ellen.  We haven’t seen them since April of 2014, and it was great to catch up.  Ellen is finally retiring after 27 years in the same locale and although they are planning on taking long RV trips, they decided they don’t want to full-time quite yet.  So Ellen is fulfilling her dream of living on the beach and selling her very nice modular home near Orlando.  The house was really open and airy and the 55+ resort was super friendly. She’s selling it for under $50K and is willing to owner finance if anyone is interested! So Ellen and Mario will be part-timers living in their home at the beach in the winter and traveling the country or staying in their mountain campsite in Northern Georgia in the summer.  Speaking of that, Ellen has a beautiful 1-1/2 acre full hook up wooded lot near the Appalachian Trail in Northern Georgia.  She rents it out by the day, week, or month and offers a 20% discount to all her friends.  The monthly rate is only $360 (all-inclusive) and it looks like a great place to hang out if you’re trying to manage your budget and want to explore that area.   If you’re interested send her an email at EBendana @ yahoo.com, and mention you saw it here.  We spent several hours with them and one of the coolest things was we walked through an abandoned orange grove next to her community. We picked a big bag full of tangerines…totally yummy right off the trees, and saw the ponds on the property.  Hopefully we will get to see her and Mario in either South Dakota or Montana this summer as they are planning a 4 month trip which will be in  the same area we are staying.

I know this is a very long post, but I wanted to mention that having four people in the rig went much better than I expected.  We had plenty of hot water for 4 showers in the morning if we used the propane to help the water heater recover, the kids kept their stuff in our bedroom in the daytime which kept down on the clutter, and because I found I could be in the room with them for longer stretches.  Still spent a lot of time outside and with at least some of us out most days it worked really well.  I would definitely be up for trying it again.  And finally, speaking of the kids, Micah proposed to Katy at Magic Kingdom and they came home engaged!!!  I was so glad that we were here when it happened.  We really like Micah and they have been very happy the last four years together.  And in case anyone is wondering, we talked about the money for the girls weddings before we came on this adventure.  It was important to me that the money was set aside just in case, so we should be all set there.  Plus, now that we are mobile, we can spend more time with her prior to the wedding.  Pretty exciting all around!!

 

The newly engaged Micah and Katy

The newly engaged Micah and Katy

Lessons Learned

  • When making a reservation at a State or County park be very specific about your length and height when talking to the camp host.  Don’t only talk about the site but also discuss getting in and out of the park.
  • If you have daughters and plan on paying for their weddings, set that money aside before you embark on this life.

Campground Review

Rainbow Village  11911 66th Street Largo, Florida   4 out of 5 pinecones

A really great 55+ community that will take younger couples.  It is centrally located to St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Tampa and within 2 hours of Bradenton, Arcadia, and Fort Myers.  Indian Rocks Beach is only 15 minutes away and despite the fact that it is located in town, the park itself feels somewhat isolated. With over 65% of the sites taken by permanent or seasonals, I would not recommend the park for short stays but really liked it for the 10 weeks we were there.  The park has outstanding laundry facilities, a billiard room with 5 tables, large pool, card room, library,  and a huge rec room.  There are numerous activities every day and since many of the folks who are there are french Canadian many of the activities are offered on alternating nights in either English or French.  The management was terrific, the people living there were incredibly nice, and it was exceptionally clean and well maintained.  We stayed in site #433 which was tough to get into but worked great for us once we were there.

Magnolia Park 2929 S Binion RD Apopka, FL   3 out of 5 pinecones

Small state park in Apopka Florida is reasonably priced in a beautiful setting.  The sites are on the small side and the entrance and exit would be extremely tight for a 40 foot rig.  We chose to not stay here because we did not think we could get our fifth wheel through the exit.  The camp hosts were very friendly and tried to find us another location to stay in.  I would definitely recommend it if you have a smaller rig, but I was disappointed that the person I spoke to on the phone was not completely accurate on whether or not my rig would fit in the park.

Lost Lake RV Resort   3400 S. Clarcona Rd, Clarcona FL 1 out of 5 pinecones

Absolutely the worst park I have stayed in so far. The Lost Lake is basically a hole in the ground that used to have water in it.  Lots of permanent residents in very old and very poorly maintained vehicles, but I will say the people who lived there were all very nice and friendly.  We were told the 50 amp pull through we were given did not honor the Passport America discount but they had no other sites available.  When we pulled up there was no one in the office and we had to wait (with another couple) for over 30 minutes until someone came to give us our sites.  The next day when we went to pay we were told it would be an extra $90 for my daughter and her fiancée to stay with us for the 7 days.   Eventually we did get the $90 refunded but it took multiple trips to the office.  Visited the restroom on the way in and two of the three toilets weren’t working. Used it again on the way out and there was no toilet paper. I would never go there again and absolutely do not recommend it.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

Feeling Closed in

If you enjoy the adventure part of the posts more than the day to day stuff please feel free to scroll down to the picture of the sunset and start there.  Don’t worry you won’t hurt my feelings 🙂

This week started a little rough.  I really like where we are staying. We are in Rainbow Village, Largo  a 55 plus community and it was by far the best of the choices we had.  The people are very friendly, the facilities are spotless, and I feel completely safe.  But I definitely miss my view and it’s much less fun working from the RV when you can’t step outside for a moment and look at something pretty.  We aren’t within walking distance of anything and it would be a stretch to drive to the beach on my lunch break so I am feeling a bit stuck here.  Lee is going to school everyday and getting out, but to be honest I am feeling a bit stir crazy.  Then, to prove things can get worse, the site next to ours (which has been empty most of the time we’ve been here) was filled by a huge motor home.  For some reason, their main slide-out with their dinette is facing our awning area and now I am staring right into their kitchen window.  I am trying not to, but I don’t really have anyplace else to look, I mean it is really right in front of us.  Can’t be much fun for them either since their windows open to us and now we can hear each others conversations.  Geez. (They’ve got the better end of the deal, our conversations are much more interesting than theirs.-Lee)

So I know we need to start getting away from our site more, but just like in a sticks and bricks it’s tough to come home from work, make dinner, then have time to do anything.  It’s odd really that here we are doing this crazy adventure and I am ending up being a more “traditional” wife than I have been in years.  To be completely clear, I have tremendous respect for anyone who fills that role in a marriage, that was just not who I was in our marriage…mainly because I worked farther away, traveled quite a bit, and wasn’t nearly as good at it as Lee was.  (Further evidence that I rock. She rocks in her own special way. – Lee) But things are different now, and as our life is evolving our roles and interactions with each other need to evolve as well.  

I know we are both experiencing situations where behaviors we have been totally fine with for years are no longer OK.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  This gives us an opportunity to “reset” as a couple and figure out not only who we want to be individually but as a couple.  (I want to be Benedict Cumberbatch. – Lee) One of the things you tend to do as a long-term couple with kids is divide and conquer.  So we are just not that used to doing this together.  I can count on one hand for example when we went to the grocery store together and now we are doing it every week.  That might seem like a simple thing going to the grocery store, but when you have $150 for the week and two different opinions on where to go and what to buy, something that was previously very simple suddenly becomes a conversation and in some cases a negotiation. Everyone says communicate, communicate, communicate to deal with the transitions of the full-timing lifestyle and conventional wisdom is absolutely correct, but what they don’t say is all that communicating is exhausting.  You’re working out “muscles” that you haven’t needed to use in a long time and sometimes it can be painful. (She’s right. Communicating with her is exhausting. I am more of a ray of light and joy in an otherwise grim world. – Lee) 

So what does that all have to do with where we are staying?  Well, the amazing views, moving about, and seeing cool new stuff for us makes those conversations briefer.  They still happen but you’re trying to get through it as quickly as possible so that you can go see the cool things. When you sit for awhile and are living more of a “regular” life those conversations happen more frequently and take longer.  Plus you are having them in a relatively small space and in our case we really need to be careful about how we have them.  You can’t go to separate corners, raising your voice is a bad idea since it’s really loud in your tin box, and arguing outside isn’t an option because you have tons of neighbors. So you not only have to talk about issues that have been resolved for years you may also need to do it in new ways. You don’t have to do any of this of course.  You could transplant your old roles into this new life but I wouldn’t recommend it.  I truly believe that all of this communication is a VERY good thing.  (She drinks. You should keep that in mind while reading her stuff.) Relationships can get stale and if nothing else this life is forcing us to reevaluate who we are with each other.  I would however recommend that you do all that with a really pretty view. (I don’t know what she’s talking about. I always have the prettiest view there is. – Lee)

I know I am a bit all over the place with this post, but all of these feelings seem to go hand in hand.  Frankly it’s too tough to be able to separate what’s a symptom and what’s the source at this point so I am working through all of them simultaneously the best I can.  Not the best scenario.  I also find myself missing having a dog.  Not Molly (the cavalier we gave to a friend before coming on the road) but just a dog in general.  (I have offered to lick her face to simulate having a dog, she seems uninterested. – Lee) Molly would have hated this lifestyle…she traveled terribly even short distances, but she was just one of many dogs I have owned in my life.  Plus ALL of our friends have at least one dog and even though we get the occaional envious comment about the freedom a “no-dog” life offers, they all seem pretty happy with their choice despite any limitations the dog might cause.  Cori/Greg and Gene/Eileen both have the same kind of dog (cavachon) and we love both of these dogs.  They are small, smart, active, and cute as a button. I mean seriously look at these pictures…how can you resist these dogs faces.

Hobi the wonder dog

Hobi  “The Wonder Dog”

Max the cutie patooty

Max  “The Cutie Patooty”

 

I know getting a dog is a long term commitment and should not be done on a whim.  I also know that our concerns regarding us living with a dog in this lifestyle have not changed.  But I really miss puppy kisses….don’t know what else to say.  (The offer still stands.) So I went on my lunch break to a nearby puppy store to check them out.  Let me say for all of my New England friends, I do know puppy stores are not the best place to get a dog. People feel so strongly about it there that I think I only saw one puppy store in the 13 years I lived there.  But in other parts of the country they are pretty common and if you’re not in a circumstance to locate a local breeder or adopt through the local humane society they are an option.    On a side note, my stepfather, who is 65, wanted to adopt a dog from the Columbus Human Society and because of his age they would only let him adopt a dog that was 8 years or older.  Seriously not cool.  People are living a lot longer and as much as I love dogs I definitely fall into the “they are animals and not people” group.  Anyway, there is a puppy store right around the corner that I have been dying to go into, so I I took a quick trip on my lunch break on Wednesday.  The place was very clean and they had tons of puppies…so lots and lots of puppy kisses and the staff was very nice and helpful.  They didn’t have any cavachons but  the trip certainly brightened my day.   After the visit I spent some time researching the cavachon breed and am more convinced than ever that when we do eventually get a dog again, this is a great breed (by temperament) for this lifestyle.  So I did some research and found a private home breeder in Sarasota and they had a white male puppy who was exactly what I was looking for.  Lee and I had a serious conversation about it, but in the end his common sense won out over my puppy fever.  We really don’t know what our life will look like (being here in Largo for 10 weeks is not an accurate representation) so the responsible thing to do is wait and see.  I hate being a responsible grownup.

Walt the puppy I found at a local breeder was perfect but the timing was not

Walt the puppy I found at a local breeder was perfect but the timing was not

So in order to combat the “closed in” feelings and  “no puppy” sadness,  I have planned a nature day for us on Saturday.  There are several wildlife parks/gardens in the area that are free or near free and I want to get out there with my camera and immerse myself in some wildlife.  Plus, my good friend Jo (who seems to have a sixth sense for these things) sent me a text and asked me to come down and visit her and Ben, Gene and Eileen, and Kelly and Bill on Martin Luther King day.  I totally forgot I have that day off and replied back with a huge enthusiastic YES!!!   Lee has school that day so I will go down on my own and it’s great to have friends where being half a couple if not an issue at all.   So this weekend is covered and I need to find something to do during the evenings and maybe on the occasional lunch to break up the day.

While I am talking about going to see Jo and Ben in Fort Meyers I wanted to mention the differences in weather.  Even though they are only 2 hours south there is a 10-15 degree swing when you travel there.  I think because Largo is in between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico and surrounded by water on three sides it is cooler.  I don’t mind the cooler temps…I’ll take 50-60 over 10-12 degrees any day, but it is cloudy here.  Not the Florida I am used to where it rains a bit in the morning and then is sunny the rest of the day, but overcast most days until early afternoon and then a little bit of sunshine.  Again, waaay better than up north, but I could use some more sun as I think it would help improve my overall mood.  So excited about seeing the gang, not just for the company, but for a little dose of warmer weather.  It reminds me a bit of New Hampshire in that we could drive two hours into the Green Mountains in Vermont and get totally different weather.

This week we also spent some time dealing with some rig repair issues.   When we originally got our rig they did not have a Splendide and gave us another washer/dryer combo.  This never worked at all from the first day, so we made the dealer replace it with the Splendide we had ordered originally. Four months into use the Splendide just stopped working and locked tight with clothes and water inside it.  When we called our warranty folks they said it was still covered under the Splendide warranty and Lee then had to call them and they told him to call a local RV tech to do the work and they would pay for it. The first tech he called refused to do anything but replace it (which Splendide would not accept) so Splendide provided the name of another tech.  It took several days for the guy to call us back, another week to get on his schedule, and after waiting all day Monday for a no show he finally came on Tuesday.  The tech was very nice and I was grateful I finally got my clothes out of the washer, but he said the board was fried and would need a part.  We spent the rest of the week trying to get Flagg RV to send us some sort of paperwork that we could send to Splendide to prove it was under warranty.  Meanwhile, doing some research on the Open Range site I also discovered that there was a recall on our slideout switches.  Open Range Technical Service Bulletin 07092014 from Highland Ridge RV on July 09/2014:  “Highland Ridge RV has identified a potential issue regarding the function of the slide-out systems with the Open Range products. Models affected are new unsold models and models that currently under the limited 2 year warranty…Highland Ridge RV has determined that the slide-out in/out switches that were installed may not produce enough electric amps for the system to function correctly. Due to this there is a chance of slide-out motors, gears boxes and/or drive shafts failing.”  Other people on the forum stated they called their dealer and they either sent them new switches or scheduled a service visit. Our dealer (who has gone through four Service Managers in a one year period) didn’t notify me about the recall.  I asked them if they could just send the switches and we could replace them. This was really a good thing, because we noticed the motor was making a funny noise the last time we put the slideout out and hopefully this explains it.  I generally avoid the more technical discussions in the forum, but I have to say I am glad I stumbled across this as we could have had a much more serious problem down the road.

So enough of all of that not-fun stuff.  Friday’s weather was absolutely beautiful, so Lee and I drove to Indian Rocks Beach (about 15 minutes away) to watch the sunset.  Lee has gone a couple of times, but it was always too cold for me, but tonight was just perfect and we took the most beautiful pictures.  We also got to listen to taps being played when the sun goes down.  An older vet comes every night and plays his bugle as the sun falls beneath the waves.  Absolutely lovely moment and a very nice man.

Sunset at Indian Rocks Beach in Largo Florida

Sunset at Indian Rocks Beach in Largo Florida

Gentleman who plays taps every night at Sunset beach

Gentleman who plays taps every night at Sunset beach

 

On Saturday we got up early and decided to check out one of the four local parks.  Pinellas County has a large park about 15 minutes away called The Florida Botanical Gardens We went there first because it’s so close to the house I could go on a lunch break and hang out.  We ended up spending several hours there because it was so amazing.  It is totally free and it is divided into multiple sections so we took a while to walk around.  They have the east and west gardens, a tropical section, wedding area, herb garden, butterfly garden, alligator area, and a wonderful historical village with over 25 buildings.  The buildings were largely left to the historical society in wills with enough funds to completely transport the building.  Then other members of the historical society fill it with antiques.  Very, very cool, completely free, and totally unexpected.   The historical area also has volunteers in several of the buildings who explain about the time period and the particular building they are in.  I spent quite some time talking to a woman about how quilting is done today versus how it was done in the 1800’s.  Really neat. 

Camellia

Camellia

I had no idea bananas had a large flower at the bottom. Reminded me a bit of the flower from Little Shop of Horrors

I had no idea bananas had a large flower at the bottom. Reminded me a bit of the flower from Little Shop of Horrors

My first alligator. The duck swimming close by didn't interest him at all

My first alligator. The duck swimming close by didn’t interest him at all

Turtles sunning themselves on the bank pretty near the gator but they seemed unconcerned

Turtles sunning themselves on the bank pretty near the gator but they seemed unconcerned

 

Center of the historical village

Center of the historical village

One of the volunteers was in the Grocery Store

One of the volunteers was in the Grocery Store

Village Garage

Village Garage

The garage was very cool

The garage was very cool

After such a great time at the gardens I really didn’t want to go anywhere else, so we will save those for another day.  We went back to the RV for lunch and then we puttered until 5pm when the RV Resort was having a pig roast.  Lee wasn’t terribly thrilled about going, but I thought it would be good to at least put in a short appearance, plus free food, so we walked down at 5pm.

On Sunday Lee went to a study session held by one of his fellow students who is a retired Air Force Colonel and a whiz at all things electrical, so I decided to go and visit the Sunken Garden.   After the great experience on Saturday, I almost didn’t go because I didn’t want to be disappointed, but the weather was beautiful so I drove the 20 minutes to St. Pete.  Sunken Garden’s claim to fame is that it is a 100-year-old garden and I really wanted to see plants that were that old.  The $8 admission threw me off though.  Not because $8 is a lot of money but because I have found the free or near free attractions are often better.  I was pleasantly surprised however and definitely felt I got my money’s worth.  Although it was a bit crowded (there was a line when it opened at noon on Sunday) and not as big as I would have liked (only took me 45 minutes to walk through), it was jam-packed with huge beautiful plants and there were many more flowers in bloom than I would have expected in January.  Also the gardens boast many plants from tropical regions around the world, so I got to see plants and flowers I had never seen before.  Definitely worth a trip, but I would recommend going during a weekday if you can manage it. 

The growth was huge and dense which makes the relatively small place feel bigger

The growth was huge and dense which makes the relatively small place feel bigger

Beautiful paths are cut at multiple levels so you could be very close to someone and not see them.

Beautiful paths are cut at multiple levels so you could be very close to someone and not see them.

I have never seen flowering vines this high in my life. They were like two stories tall and hanging from the tops of giant trees

I have never seen flowering vines this high in my life. They were like two stories tall and hanging from the tops of giant trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The limestone was excavated when the gardens were originally built

The limestone was excavated when the gardens were originally built

You sit on it and feel peace and serenity. IT was a really cool, smooth rock

You sit on it and feel peace and serenity. IT was a really cool, smooth rock

This was the view across from the growing stone which did make me feel peaceful

This was the view across from the growing stone which did make me feel peaceful

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful beautiful flowers

Beautiful beautiful flowers

Never seen one of these before

Never seen one of these before

 

I've never seen this flower either. Wish DeDe was with me she would have loved it.

I’ve never seen this flower either. Wish DeDe was with me she would have loved it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday was a holiday for me and it was great because when living in New England I thought it was a waste to have a holiday in January (no disrespect to Martin Luther King just wish it would be a different day), but down here it was amazing.  The day was absolutely gorgeous with temps in the high 70’s and sunny skies.  Lee had school unfortunately , but I was free so got up early and drove down to Fort Meyers to see my friends Jo and Ben, Kelly and Bill, and Eileen and Gene.  I had an absolutely wonderful time talking with my friends and we had a nice dinner (thank you so much Gene and Eileen for treating me…that was incredibly sweet) and I reluctantly left at 7:30pm to start the two-hour drive home.  It was a long day but absolutely what I needed to brush the last of those “closed in feelings” away.  I know I’ve said it before, but I absolutely love these people and they are the best support system in the world.  No matter how you are feeling, they are there for you and although the experience does vary from person to person, we are all absolutely committed to supporting each other as we transition to the full timing lifestyle.  There was lots of laughter, great advice, and some commiseration which is all a wonderful thing.  And most importantly it reaffirmed that I am not alone in this.  So thank you all so much for the wonderful day and I can’t wait until we are all together again.

From back left Tracy, Ben, Kelly, Bill, Jo, Gene, and Eileen

From back left
Tracy, Ben, Kelly, Bill, Jo, Gene, and Eileen

Lessons Learned

  • When you are feeling closed in get out and do something.  See friends, visit a nature park, go see an attraction.  
  • You can fill an entire weekend without spending much money (I spent $8 this weekend).
  • Be careful of making any big decisions when your feeling antsy or closed in.  Give it some time to pass.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

First Time in Clearwater

I have been to Florida many times in my life including several summers spent on Singer Island, but I have never lived in Florida before.  I have to say, I finally get why people are snowbirds.  The weather is absolutely wonderful.  It’s been in the low 80’s almost every day and although it does rain frequently, it is usually those quick showers that are over in no time.  It’s also very breezy and I am enjoying very much the sun on my face especially when I see that New Hampshire is experiencing ice storms and weather in the teens.  I know, I am sorry, I certainly don’t mean to rub it in, but part of me is wondering why I didn’t do this a long time ago.  Yes, I am sure I would find the summers miserable, but I won’t be here in the summer, and for right now this weather is absolutely amazing. (I have no such qualms. New England weather sucks in the winter, even people who have lived there their entire lives think so. – Lee)

It’s been a busy week…as you know my grandmother passed away, and I spent Monday, Tuesday, and part of Wednesday with my mother, grandfather, and aunts and uncle in North Palm.  I’d like to talk about what I did on the other days though.  When we pulled into the site, we were a little taken aback that our site number had been changed at the last minute.  I made these reservations months ago, but I have to say I am glad our site changed.  We are staying for 10 weeks (while Lee goes to RV Tech school) at the Rainbow Village Largo 55+ RV community. Yes, I know we are not 55+, but they are allowed a certain amount of guests who are under that age and we got an exemption which cracks me up.  (Trace is so close to 55 as to make no difference, but we’re calling it an “exception.” I’m considerably younger, but since we’re married they had to let me in as well. – Lee) We had pretty low expectations coming in.  Just a reasonable place to stay close to the school, but I really like it.  Our new site was pretty tough to get into, but once there, we are in a nice spot.  So far no one is in the site we face so it’s like being on a double lot.  We are also surrounded by a group of French Canadians and it’s nice hearing them speak in French all the time.  Adds to the atmosphere.  (In addition, there’s something really nice about not being able to understand conversations that you can’t help but overhear. It just turns into background noise. At our previous seasonal site in Swanzey, people were so loud, it was almost impossible not to just start participating. Sometimes I did, quietly enough so they couldn’t hear me, which is a shame, in retrospect. I often had compelling things to add. Also, everyone here thinks I’m Canadian, and they keep speaking to me in French. I keep apologizing for not being Canadian, but that seems to just reinforce their idea that I’m Canadian. It’s a vicious circle, with no end in sight. C’est une honte. – Lee)

So far people are friendly but have largely left us alone which is nice and if we do want to get to know folks there are plenty of opportunities with a daily calendar that has 3-5 free activities a day.  It’s clean, neat, and I feel completely safe as we are gated in and surrounded by our own security force of older people who are paying attention to what’s going on!!  Plus 65% of the structures are permanent so it feels like a little community more than a trailer park which was a concern of mine.

Right outside our camper in Rainbow Village, Largo Fl

Right outside our camper in Rainbow Village, Largo Fl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though we aren’t on the water or really near anything cool there are many things to see and do within a half hour drive.  The beach is 15-20 minutes away (depending on traffic) and Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Tarpon Springs are all within easy driving distance.  It’s quite a bit cooler here than even two hours south, and since we are still getting acclimated to the weather appreciate that.  Lee really wanted to see the sun set on the ocean since he hadn’t had the opportunity since the mid-90’s, so on New Years Day we went to Clearwater Beach which is considered one of the best beaches in the US.  The beach is beautiful with tons of white sand, but it was a bit crowded for my taste and after checking out Pier 60 (which has vendors and restaurants) we moved down to Sand Key Park which I liked much better.  It was $5 for an all day parking pass at Sand Key (versus $3 an hour at the Hilton on the Clearwater beach) and much less crowded.  We stayed for quite awhile looking for shells, watching birds, and eventually seeing the sunset and it was a very nice experience.

PIer 60 in Clearwater

PIer 60 in Clearwater

Clearwater beach

Clearwater beach

Sand Key State Park

Sand Key State Park (Totally different ocean than Pier 60. It’s not even on the same side. This one is on the right, and the other one is on the left, as the pictures show. – Lee)

Message I wrote to Lee on the beach

Message I wrote to Lee on the beach (Never trust anyone who writes an I.O.U. in something as temporary as sand.- Lee)

 

Thursday and Friday we spent the time getting acclimated to the area.  I was nervous about my first haircut here, since I had heard horror stories from people about changing hairdressers and had the same person cutting my hair for over 10 years, but we found a Super Cuts and Lindsey did a great job.  We also tried out one of the three local grocery stores. We’re going to try them all and see which one we like best. I am finding those types of things to be unsettling..not knowing which grocery store to go to, or where to get my hair cut, but as I knock each one off my list I am finding it’s much easier than I thought it would be.  I am overdue on a teeth cleaning as well, so calling Aspen Dental soon which Cori recommended to me because they are a national chain, so I will tell you how that went after the appointment. I also started cooking again, something I have kind of gotten away from with all the traveling and actually menu planned and shopped for all next week.  My first couple of attempts; Individual Beef Wellington and Chicken Parmesan were not that great (meat overcooked and undercooked respectively), but Lee appreciated the effort and since he only has 1/2 hour for lunch at the school every day it’s important I get back into the habit.  Plus we are absolutely committed to living within our budget this month.  Originally my intention was to start posting budget numbers last month, but things were so crazy with the moves and unexpected startup costs, I decided to start fresh this month.  I’ll be completely honest, we did not do as well as I would have hoped but we also didn’t completely blow the bank either.  My advice is expect to plan to spend extra that first month, just like you would if you bought a new home or moved into a new apartment.

Saturday we drove down to Fort Meyers to see Jo and Ben.  One of the best things about being here is so many of our friends are close by.  We saw Kelly and Bill and the night we came in (they made us a terrific dinner) and we hadn’t seen Jo and Ben since they left Maine.  Ben took a six month contract with the Fort Meyers hospital which he likes very much and Jo is working on call for 3 different hospice companies.  Plus they really really like their site which sits right on a canal and they have their own little private boat dock which goes to a river which has tons of manatees in it.  (That is utter nonsense. There is tons of water, tons of birds, tons of mangrove trees. There are not tons of manatees. Not even a few pounds of manatees. We saw no manatees. We were there, we were in the river, we looked. No manatees. I think it’s all a big marketing ploy. Just like in New Hampshire with their alleged “moose”. I lived there over 13 years, never saw any “moose”. Don’t believe the lies about the moose, and the manatees. – Lee) After tons of hugs, talking a bit, and eating a quick lunch we set out on their boat.  Ben took us up to the power plant which dumps hot water into the river and is a favorite hanging out spot of the manatees.  (Suuuuure. – Lee) It was a glorious day and although we didn’t see any manatees we did see lots of birds and some very cool mangroves.  We had a terrific time and I am so glad we are close to our good friends again.

Ben and Lee on the boat

Ben and Lee on the boat (You see how Jo and Ben are almost gleeful in their laughter about how we feel for the “manatee” story? – Lee)

Lee and Jo

Lee and Jo

Loved the pelicans just hanging out.

Loved the pelicans just hanging out. (Those aren’t real. They’re sophisticated animatronic pelican statues. – Lee)

 

Lessons Learned

  • Budget extra money for the first month or so…you’ll need it
  • Getting a hair cut in a new place doesn’t have to be traumatic…BUT be prepared to describe exactly how you want it.  Your former hairdresser can write down important information like color, type of cut, length etc for you before you go on the road.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here